Feb 26, 2019

Axios Sports

By Kendall Baker
Kendall Baker

🚨 Breaking news: Axios and HBO have inked a deal for a second season! Broken into 8 half-hour episodes — 4 this spring and 4 this fall — AXIOS will cover the big trends, people and ideas shaping the next decade.

  • Bonus:  HBO will also air 4 shorter, interview-driven specials designed to move with the pulse of the news.
  • Why it matters: Our mission has been, and always will be, to help you, our readers, get smarter faster on the topics that matter most. We do that in our newsletters, on our news stream, social platforms, podcast and now, once again, on HBO.
  • Tweet @Axios your ideas for content and interviewees and stay tuned for more details.
1 big thing: 🏟 Shrinking stadiums

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

After years spent believing "bigger is better," America's professional sports teams are changing course and building smaller, more intimate venues.

What's happening: Stadiums are shrinking for multiple reasons, including:

  • Lower attendance: Thanks to things like HD TVs, instant replay and social media (aka, the "second screen"), fewer people are going to games. The in-home viewing experience is simply too good.
  • Those darn millennials: Watching a game isn't enough for them. They want to socialize and wander around. In response, stadium architects are beginning to reinvent the upper deck — removing seats and replacing them with things like lounges and social spaces.

By the numbers:

  • MLB: The Braves, Marlins, Twins and Yankees have all downsized since 2009, and the Rays plan to reduce seating at Tropicana Field from a league-low 31,042 to roughly 25,000 this season, per JohnWallStreet.
  • NBA: New arenas in Sacramento, Calif., Milwaukee and San Francisco will all have 40 or fewer traditional suites, a huge decrease from their predecessors.
  • NFL: Only the Cowboys and Jets/Giants have built 80,000-seat venues this century, and the 65,000-seat stadium the Raiders are building in Las Vegas will be one of the league's smallest.

The bottom line: Fans are attending fewer games than they used to — and when they do show up, the focus for many of them is on having a shared live experience (similar to what you get at, say, a music festival) rather than merely watching two teams compete.

What's next: In 2000, futurist Watts Wacker predicted that stadiums of the future would be turned into sound stages with a few thousand seats optimized for TV. That could be where we're headed — especially if/when VR headsets that put you on the 50-yard-line take over.

More stadium news:

2. 🏈 NFL Combine: Meet the QBs

Kyler Murray, Dwayne Haskins, Will Grier, Daniel Jones, Drew Lock. Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The NFL combine kicks off today in Indianapolis, which means it's time to familiarize yourself with this year's top quarterback prospects.

Kyler Murray, Oklahoma

  • Strengths: The Heisman Trophy winner is the most accurate downfield passer in this year's class and can extend plays with his legs.
  • Weakness: We've never seen a QB as short as Murray (5'10") go in the first round.

Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State

  • Strengths: Arguably the most advanced QB in the draft in terms of reading defenses and staying calm under pressure.
  • Weakness: He only started at Ohio State for one season, so he lacks experience.

Will Grier, West Virginia

  • Strengths: He's accurate, composed and displayed strong leadership skills at West Virginia.
  • Weakness: Lacks arm strength.

Daniel Jones, Duke

  • Strengths: Some evaluators have compared the former walk-on to Carson Wentz. "Great kid, great family, big body, makes all the throws, pretty smart," said one NFL evaluator.
  • Weakness: Accuracy problems.

Drew Lock, Missouri

  • Strengths: The four-year starter boasts loads of experience and has an absolute cannon for an arm.
  • Weakness: "His play (not personality) is often compared to Jay Cutler, which is a scout's way of saying he has a big arm but does dumb shit sometimes," writes The Ringer's Danny Heifetz.

Other names to know: Ryan Finley, NC State; Tyree Jackson, Buffalo; Brett Rypien, Boise State; Jarrett Stidham, Auburn; Kyle Shurmur, Vanderbilt

Look: Mock draft

3. ⚽️ Soccer phenom turns pro at age 13
Olivia Moultrie on Instagram

Two years ago, American soccer phenom Olivia Moultrie accepted a scholarship offer from the University of North Carolina. She was 11 years old.

  • Yesterday, Moultrie announced that she has signed a representation deal with Wasserman Media Group and an endorsement deal with Nike, forgoing her college eligibility and officially turning pro. She is 13 years old.

Why it matters: For decades, America's best female soccer prospects have been funneled to the college system (only two current USWNT players, Lindsey Horan and Mallory Pugh, skipped college).

  • But the landscape has shifted, and Moultrie — who was so impressive during a trip to PSG last year that the club's coaches had her scrimmaging with the U-17 boys — is the face of the future.

What's next: Unclear. A move to Europe, where top clubs like Manchester United have begun to invest more money in their women's teams, is most likely impossible for several years due to FIFA rules.

  • "A far more likely prospect would involve Moultrie's latching on as a developmental player with a team in the top United States league, the NWSL," writes the New York Times' Andrew Keh.
  • "But that path has its own obstacles; before she could ever sign a professional contract, the league would essentially have to create new allocation rules to deal with her unique situation. In addition, a player currently must be 18 to play in the NWSL."

Watch: Olivia made an appearance (1:14 mark) in Nike's latest "Dream Crazier" ad. I shared the wrong link to this yesterday, so sorry!!! Please enjoy.

4. 🏀 Last night in the NBA
Source: YouTube/Giphy

👏 Classy gesture: With 9.4 seconds remaining and his Clippers up by nine, Doc Rivers called timeout, picked up the PA announcer's microphone and had the L.A. fans give Dirk Nowitzki one last standing ovation.

⭐️ Star of the night: In his first game back since nearly dying in a car accident on Feb. 21, Karl-Anthony Towns went off in the Timberwolves' 112-105 win over the Kings.

  • Stats: 34 points (13-18 FG), 21 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks
  • Watch: Highlights

😔 Streak snapped: James Harden scored 28 points in the Rockets' 119-111 win over the Hawks, ending his streak of scoring 30 or more points at a truly ridiculous 32 games. I mean, just think about that.

📺 Tonight: Celtics vs. Raptors, 8 pm ET // Thunder vs. Nuggets, 10:30 pm ET (both games on TNT)

5. 🏒 NHL trade deadline: Recap

Ottawa's Mark Stone, the best player on the market, is headed to Vegas. Photo: Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

From Mike: The NHL was busy on deadline day with 20 moves coming in before the 3 pm ET buzzer. With 43 days left in the regular season, the playoff race is heating up.

  • Biggest buyer: Columbus, which has never won a playoff series, went all-in at the deadline, trading away an arsenal of future draft picks for win-now players. Top additions: Matt Duchene (27 goals) and Ryan Dzingel (22 goals), both from the Ottawa Senators.
  • Biggest seller: Speaking of the Senators, they had three high-profile players they wanted to move (Duchene, Dzingel and Mark Stone) and managed to unload all of them — and got a decent return in each case.
  • Biggest winner: In the span of a few hours, Stone went from the league's worst team, in the Senators, to a contending team, in the Vegas Golden Knights, then proceeded to sign an eight-year extension worth $9.5 million annually (and Nevada has no state income tax).
  • Biggest loser: The Dallas Stars sent two draft picks to the New York Rangers in exchange for Mats Zuccarello, who broke his hand in his first game with them. Just an absolute gut bunch for the Stars.

Look: Trade tracker

6. On this date: 2/26/1967

Photo: ISC Archives via Getty Images

52 years ago today, 26-year-old Mario Andretti won the 1967 Daytona 500. It was the Italian-born American's first and only NASCAR Cup Series win and helped launch his peerless career into orbit.

  • Fun facts: Andretti is the only person born outside the U.S. to win the Daytona 500. He's also the only driver in history to win the Indy 500, Daytona 500 and Formula One World Championship.
  • Watch: Race highlights
7. ⚾️ MLB trivia
  • Question: Joey Votto leads MLB in walks (1,104) since 2007, the year he debuted. Who's No. 2 on the list in that span?
  • Hint: AL East.

Answer at the bottom.

8. The Ocho: ⛵️ 50 years later, sailing around the world is no easier

17 boats set sail from Les Sables-d'Olonne, France in July. Only two have finished.

Last July, 17 sailors embarked on a solo race around the world to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Golden Globe Race — a race that saw only one participant finish and another disappear (they made a movie about it).

An update: Far more sailors were expected to finish this time around, but just two have so far — and only three remain in the race.

  • The others? The sea beat them out, one way or another. Susie Goodall, the only woman in the race, had to be rescued by a passing ship in December after her boat flipped over and flooded 2,000 miles west of South America's Cape Horn.

Meet the winner: 73-year-old Jean-Luc Van Den Heede of France won the race on Jan. 29, finishing in 211 days, 23 hours, 12 minutes.

“Your mind is never the same after this. You learn to be an optimist, to take life as it arrives. Alone you have plenty of time to think, to look at your life. You don't have time in the current life with pressures and meetings. Here you're your own master."
— French sailing legend Jean-Luc Van Den Heede
9. Today's lesson: Context matters

The bottom line: The initial video will be played on TVs all across the country today. It's not "fake news," it's simply misleading in the most subtle of ways — a result of a media ecosystem that obsesses over viral clips, even if they don't tell the whole story.

Kendall Baker


Kendall "Has sailed around a pond" Baker

Trivia answer: Jose Bautista (976)

Editor's note: Yesterday I called Steve Alford "Steve Altman." To make up for it, here is the most 80s video ever. Sorry, Steve.